Do you have any moments that stand out in your head? Not events or hours or conversations – but moments when something just CLICKS? I’ve had a couple of them in my life – one in particular on December 21 of last year. Wes Leytham was right there to catch it. It was the moment above. I laughed when I first saw this photo, because of the look on my face. I was thinking “I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud.” Part of what made MTH so changing for me was that Lara and Jeff really encouraged everyone to GET real and BE honest. Not on paper, not later after the event, but right there – right then – in front of everyone. Yes, there were tears – in fact, I think mine came seconds after this photo was taken. That kind of honesty is hard. But everyone in the room just let their guard down and let it all spill.
At this moment, I was saying “My biggest fear… is falling. Failure. I just don’t.” I meant it too. My entire life, I’ve worked my tail off to get what I want. And about 99% of the time, if I worked crazy hard and crazy long – I won. Now that I’m almost 27, I’m learning (in quite a few ways) that life just doesn’t always work that way. Truth be told, three days before MTH, I received a Cease and Desist letter from another company operating under the name Good Paper. My first instinct, when I received the letter, was to fight it as hard as I could (because that’s how you win, right?). I’d done everything right – filed two trademark applications (which had passed through all the necessary research and approval and were due to be REGISTERED just 24 hours later) and hired a trademark manager to manage the process. I knew in my heart that I had every right to that name – that I would win. So, I immediately hired an intellectual property attorney. He started doing the initial research. and told me that yes, I may win – but the battle could be a long and expensive one. Again, I was ready to fight. I had worked an entire YEAR – paying every penny I made through my business to an amazing web/branding designer who had built a website/blog around this name. It was (IS!) incredible. I wasn’t going to lose that. But more importantly, I’d promoted my name to my clients – to my friends – even built a reputation around it on Etsy.
I wasn’t going to fail. Because I DON’T fail.
During a break at MTH, I checked my email on my iPhone. An email came through from my Attorney – “Emily, we may lose this.” Again, he brought up a few points that made my registration look bleak. All of the energy and renewal I felt from the first part of MTH felt shaky. I suddenly felt embarrassed (besides, I’d even introduced myself to the MTH group and to Lara as ‘Emily Ley – owner/designer of Goodpaper’). How would I explain this? How would I tell all my friends and clients that I’d failed? Everything I’d worked for – for an entire year. I was embarrassed.
It was Jeff Holt and Kyle Barnes who initially said – over wine and sushi after MTH – while others were having their one-on-one time with Lara… “What is Goodpaper? Why aren’t you using your name?” (I laughed a little… they didn’t know the bad news that had just come my way – they also didn’t know that I originally started my company as Emily Ley Paper, but changed it to Goodpaper midyear). I couldn’t answer that question – other than the fact that I had this ridiculously strong brand that was going to be unveiled and it was GOODPAPER. Then, I had my time with Lara. She said the same thing. She encouraged me to take my name, my personality – to the next level. It was right then, that I realized, that my BRAND wasn’t strong because it was Goodpaper. It was strong because it was an sincere extension of myself. Simple. Classic. Fresh. And most importantly, very Southern.
It was like I finally took a breath in that moment and realized… it is OKAY to fail. I have failed at this Trademark – for many reasons. And everyone will ask what happened – and why didn’t it work out – and what was wrong with the Goodpaper name – and some people may even like that better. But that would be okay. Because by focusing on what FIRES me up – my love to BUILD (a home, a family, a business, a brand – and other people up) – would be my end-all-be-all focus. And nothing about my brand would change, other than my willingness to drop the weight of the name and OWN it as an extension of myself.
The very next day, I abandoned both trademark applications. I let my attorney know. I began the name change process. And I made the announcement to my friends and clients (subtly) that Emily Ley Paper was making a comeback. The way it was received assured me I was doing the right thing. And by being honest, I was sticking to my PROMISE to be authentic. And you know what… it felt good. It felt good, for the first time in my life, to fall. Because what was waiting for me when I hit the floor and felt the embarrassment and pain of losing so much money – was support for everything about my business that ISNT in my name – my dedication to my clients, the quality of the materials I use, my personality, and my strong belief in my design.
* Photos by Wes Leytham of Rae Leytham Photography.